Vt. debates 2-year vs. 4-year term

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(Host ) Former governor Madeleine Kunin says she’ll urge lawmakers in the upcoming Legislative session to support a four-year term for governor.

Kunin says a longer term is needed because state government is now dealing with more complicated issues.

But UVM political science professor Frank Bryan says the plan will insulate governors from voters.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Vermont is one of just two states in the country to maintain a two year term for governor – the other is New Hampshire.

This could change in the coming years because lawmakers this winter will consider a proposed constitutional amendment to increase the governor’s term from 2 to 4 years.

Former governor Madeleine Kunin said she strongly supports the amendment:

(Kunin) "It’s time to change it because times have changed problems that face states are much more complicated than they used to be and if you spend half your term running for the next election or worrying about the next election that just doesn’t result in good policy. So I think we’d get more done we’d get better public policy if a governor was given 4 years to do the job."

(Kinzel) But UVM political science professor Frank Bryan argues that going to a four year term will "cut democracy in half in Vermont":

(Bryan) "I think it’s a great recall provision in our Constitution. We don’t have a recall-  in many ways the governorship is strong in Vermont because there’s no recall and it’s unlimited terms so that keeping this 2 year term says ‘look you’re going to get re-elected you don’t have to go out and campaign a lot’…you see you don’t have to do that that Vermonters are going to do the right thing and re-elect you unless you do something really egregious."

(Kinzel) Governor Kunin says the two year term also forces governors to do a lot of fundraising:

(Kunin) "It’s not just the money you get that money from whom you get it from special interests some Vermonters give $25, $50 dollars that’s great but you don’t raise a million dollars from those kinds of contributions. So the governor is beholden to those contributors and I don’t think that’s good for democracy."

(Kinzel) But professor Bryan isn’t swayed by this argument:

(Bryan) "If you look at the data you find that indeed irrespective of how big a state is that those states that have four year terms spend 75 % more money on the one single election for that 4 year term then we spend on our two 2 year terms combined.

(Kinzel) Lawmakers are also expected to consider a plan that gives both the governor and legislators a four year term in office. All constitutional amendments will be reviewed by the Senate Government Operations committee.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

(Host) For Bob Kinzel’s full discussion with Madeleine Kunin and Frank Bryan on the four year term, go to VPR.net and click on Vermont Edition.


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